Evolution and Religion

William Irons*, Richard D. Alexander

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the evolution of religion within the framework of Richard D. Alexander's concept of God as a metaphor for social harmony. It first considers two major themes in the recent literature on the evolution of religion: religion as a byproduct of psychological mechanisms that predispose us to believe in unseen but imagined entities, such as gods, and the idea that religious beliefs function to enhance cooperation among individuals within groups. It then places Alexander's essay entitled "Religion, Evolution and the Quest for Global Harmony" within the context of recent theory on the evolution of religion, citing its focus on the central values upon which religious belief and the "concept of god" are based. In his essay, Alexander tackles religion, organic evolution, and the effort to work toward global social harmony. He also explores group-living, its reasons and consequences, human mind and consciousness, morality and the universality of God, the connection between science and religion, and wars, genocides, and murders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHuman Social Evolution
Subtitle of host publicationThe Foundational Works of Richard D. Alexander
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190267858
ISBN (Print)9780199791750
StatePublished - Aug 15 2013


  • Concept of god
  • Evolution
  • Group-living
  • Human mind
  • Morality
  • Religion
  • Religious beliefs
  • Richard D. Alexander
  • Science
  • Social harmony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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